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tv   Hardball With Chris Matthews  MSNBC  December 29, 2011 2:00pm-3:00pm PST

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lloyd webber for a wonderful rant. some real insights and optimism for the new year, which we need. that does it for us. i'm matt miller. up next, "hardball with chris matthews" out in iowa starts right now. romney rump. let's play "hardball." good evening. i'm chris matthews at java joe's in des moines, iowa. we're just five days away from the iowa caucuses. the candidates are here, the crowds are obviously here until the votes are in. "hardball" is going to be here every night through the caucuses tuesday night. leading off tonight, smelling victory. one day after a new poll put him first here in iowa, mitt romney is strutting his stuff, showing a new air of confidence with just five days to go. romney announced he'll stay in iowa through çtuesday's caucus, holding a post-caucus party here
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in des moines before moving on to new hampshire wednesday morning. he's playing to win here. hoping victories in iowa and then new hampshire will help him wrap up the nomination quickly. romney's biggest rival right now in iowa is ron paul. a small government conservative and darling of the tea party. but we're learning more about the other side of ron paul, the one who buys into all sorts of conspiracy theories and even supports the the john birch society. is this really a guy anyone wants running our country? and the wild card in the race might be rick santorum. he's surging at the right time. could he replace newt gingrich down the road as the alternative, the conservative alternative, to mitt romney? and the 2012 presidential candidate with the best organization here in iowa might not be any of the republicans, it may just be president obama, whose campaign has put together a huge operation aimed at once again winning the hawkeye state come november. we'll go inside the obama ground game here in iowa. finally, let me finish with
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the reason why the obama forces should be concerned with what's happening here in iowa. we start with mitt romney's smelling victory. it seems show, howard fineman. howard's, of course, msnbc political analyst and "the huffington post" media group editorial director. and david yepsen, with we had to have him on. he's political columnist and director of the paul simon public policy institute at southern illinois university. who is the reigning monarch of journalistic intelligence out here. i want to start with you, the local guy, because as tip o'neill once said, all politics is local. >> i read that somewhere. >> yeah. iowa, is it following the country this timeç and saying, we're not going to be stuck picking somebody out in the crazy bin. we're going to pick a president. we're not going to send a message, we're going to send the country a president. are they lining themselves up with the thinking outside iowa tonight? >> i think so, chris. i think, you know, it takes a while to get there, but you've got to remember, the people who are showing up at these caucuses are activists. they're people who care about
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their party and they vet candidates and go through all their little rituals. but at the end of the day, the purpose of the exercise is to win back the white house. and right now to a lot of them, to a growing number of republicans i talk to, they're getting -- >> so a phrase i use to the distraction of all our producers, they're getting their heads around the challenge of candidate who will beat jimmy -- there's a mistake. who will beat barack obama. howard, is that the way you see it? because a couple days we were thinking that ron paul is going to walk away with this thing. they're going to vote their gut, their heart, and not thinking about who can beat obama? >> i end up as the same place in david, but a slightly different route, having gone to a bunch of rallies the last couple of days. i think the people here, the purists were hoping to find a purist candidate. and they're still searching and searching and searching up to the last minute for the purist. and -- meanwhile, as they search for the purist, the non-hard-core is going to -- that division, since they can't
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find one pure candidate to unite around, they're going to be divided. and that is what is goingó allow mitt romney to win this thing. >> ah! so he's going to be the old 25 percenter again -- >> yeah. he's going to be 25, 28. hey, who knows? have a party. 30%. but it's because the searchç f the purist, it's more that -- to me, it's more the search for the purist that's going to allow romney to win than any positive thing about romney. >> so david, going out looking for the perfect libertarian or looking for the perfect christian conservative -- >> family candidate. >> they end up dividing up the conservative vote and letting mitt win on the left of the republican party? >> that's right. and chris, the same thing happened in the republican party 123 in 1980. an unknown former u.n. ambassador named george herbert walker bush eked out a plurality because they eked out their vote. the same thing is happening again. >> did you cover that -- >> yeah, i did. >> i know.
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>> it's back when you could hop in the backseat of a car. >> he really started this game out here of being the way outsider back in '76. you were there too. >> that's right. but carter was more of a centrist democrat. go to -- >> yeah, four liberals he ran against. >> that's right. in both parties, the more centrist candidate in the bunch will tend to do well. >> here is romney trying to stomp finely on the neck of newt gingrich. trying to put him out of the race. one of those sidewalk fights where the kid, usually the irish kid, gets the other kid on the cement, and puts his head in the cement. this is mitt's super pac trying to put away gingrich for good. let's watch. >> ever notice how some people make a lot of mistakes? >> it was probably a mistake. >> i made a mistake. >> i've made mistakes at times. >> whoops! >> so far newt gingrich has admitted his mistakes or flipped on teaming up with nancy pelosi, immigration, medicare, health care, iraq, attacking mitt romney, and more. >> i madeç a big mistake in th
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spring. >> haven't we had enough mistakes? >> well, howard, you know the game here. which is to completely humiliate your opponent. but here he is on the way to winning perhaps the iowa caucuses. is he planning to get rid of newt or having newt follow him -- >> mitt romney? >> have mitt romney get newt out of the way. >> i was racing over here from muscatine, which is why i didn't get properly dressed for the show. >> i would never dress down for iowa. i would not -- if i were in new york, i would wear a suit and tie. i would wear a suit and tie if i were in new york, but i'm out here in iowa. i want to show the same respect. >> i promise to be properly dressed tomorrow. i know big city people have this attitude about this place out here. i'm just kidding. >> newt -- newt had several ads on the rush limbaugh radio show, which is on w.h.o., the big 50,000 watt station here. he had lots of ads saying, i'm a great guy. then mark stein who's substituting for rush comes back
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on and bangs newt over the head again. the whole conservative movement has decide that newt's a mistake waiting to happen. newt gingrich is like yosemite sam, the dynamite's going to blow up in his pants. >> that's a -- >> that's a conservative! >> david, a local perspective here. we've watched these -- one of these frosty the snowmans after another melt week after week. that's my new metaphor for the winner here. the fact is that we've watched even donald trump melted in about two weeks. and herman cain took about three or four weeks to melt. and michele bachmann melted pretty quickly. and now it looks like newt has melted down -- he's down on the ground, like frosty the snowman. of course, not many people are weeping for him like they were for frosty theç snowman. >> conservative are shopping around. they're looking for a leader, for a champion, for the next huckabee, as social conservatives really -- and right now in the end game, the guy who's doing the surge is rick santorum. >> huckabee could have walked away -- >> by this time, huckabee was moving.
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>> he would have won? >> no question about that. my take on the question that you asked was, why would mitt romney stomp on newt gingrich, who's plummeting in the polls and not go after rick santorum? >> who's coming up? >> yes. >> the answer to the question is, as nutty as newt can be, he's a crazy genius who could still, to mix metaphors -- >> he's imaginable as a nominee -- >> still hit the three-pointer, whereas santorum does not have money, does not have the national infrastructure. unlike newt, he didn't have didn't even -- santorum didn't submit signatures to the get on the ballot. they're trying to pick their third -- >> i love the way you think. >> the romney people are trying to pick their third tier candidate. and they would rather have santorum than either newt gingrich or rick perry. >> even though you dress casually, you came here formally with a great idea. no, seriously, it's a hell of an idea. if he picked santorum to go around the country with for the next six months, beating one or two to him, that's good for mitt romney. >> because it makes him look more centrist.
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and that's where this election is going to be decided. suburban women -- >> who are pro-choice. >> who are pro-choice or who are scared by some of the stuff -- >> so santorum would make a neat foil for mitt romney. >> it's mostly based on money. the romney people i've talked to have a residual worry that newt gingrich or rick perry can still raise big bucks or get jif independent pacs for them. the aidelson for gingrich -- they think santorum can't together the money. >> i don't think we've heard the end of mike huckabee in this campaign. wouldn't he make a nice running mate for mitt romney? >> i'm glad you said that. that's a nice thought. mitt romney's grabbed the eastern division, the moderate wing of the republican party. not the biggest wing, but the moderate wing. he's basically trying to pick the winner of the western division. the conservative he won't have to fight around the country. here's rick perry still battling for that western conference championship. he wants to be the guy that knocks off santorum.
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here he is going after santorum. today, let's watch rick perry, still in the fight. >> rick santorum is a friend. i mean, he is -- i've got great respect for him. but when he talks about fiscal conservatism, every now and then, it kind of leaves me scratching my head, because he was a prolific earmarker. you know, i love iowa pork, but i hate washington pork. and senator santorum, he loaded up his bills with pennsylvania pork. and he even voted for the alaska bridge to nowhere. >> so does that kind of cornpone going to work out here? >> no. >> he's obviously talking down to people. if it's possible for rick perry to talk down to someone, he's doing it. >> it's the conservatives in a circle particular firing squad and they're trashing each other. the real winners of this are mitt romney and probably barack obama. >> i will say this, though,
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having just come from a santorum event and having interviewed a bunqh of people there, the one thing they didn't like about santorum is that he sometimes lapsed into congressionalese. bob dole used to say, i passed this bill, or i passed that bill. >> mondale used to say, moment of personal privilege. >> i've been in the senate, because santorum's record is from the senate for the most part. talks about the bills he passed, and that reminds people, suddenly, a lightbulb goes off in their head, he's one of them. >> my favorite is, that's bill's in markup. >> the other reason -- >> let's size it up here right now, because you're the expert, the local, and you're the national expert. locally, does it look like romney next tuesday night? >> i think so. >> i'm not 100% sure. >> who's the challenge? >> he wasn't on the -- romney was not on the radio today, at least not on w.h.o. my question is, why? and i think david and i agreed why. he doesn't want to stir anybody up. romney wants to kind of tiptoe out of here with a narrow victory. i don't -- he's getting good crowds, our guy from the
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"huffington post" is with him says he's getting excellent crowds. i think he's going to underperform slightly, i do. i don't know who that will help. >> let's look ate next week. >> i wouldn't bet the farm on it. >> earlier this week on "today," i predicted it was going to be paul, romney, santorum as the finish. the one, two, three. now i begin to -- i don't know about one, two, but i do bet santorum for three. is he still the best bet? >> right now in that third tier race, yes. >> i agree with that. >> so he gets to go on in the race? he gets a ticket out of iowa? >> i'm not sure that ticket is worth anything, because he doesn't have time to raise the kind of money -- >> well, he's going to skip new hampshire. >> is newt gingrich going to finish out of the money here? >> yes. >> yeah, i think so. >> that's powerful stuff. we never thought that would happen. >> well, it's been --ç >> he dies in iowa. >> it's been the consistent pattern. there's been six different front-runners in iowa in the last six months. >> you know this, chris, campaigns don't quit, they just run out of gas. and some of these people just aren't going to be able to raise enough money -- >> it looks like romney's trying to croak him. get him out of the race.
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>> get who out? >> get newt out. >> of course, because he's unpredictable. >> this is great stuff talking to two pros like you. you're unbelievable, you guys. you're the best. even in old clothes, you're great. howard fineman, david yepson. coming up next, ron paul under siege. his critics are saying his foreign policy or lack thereof is dangerous or worse and he's a conspiracy buff and supporter, in fact, a big party of the john birch society. is this going to scare voters here in iowa. that's coming up here on "hardball." we caught up today with michele bachmann on the campaign stop. here we were in des moines with michele bachmann. >> congresswoman, how's it looking for tuesday? >> we're very thrilled. we're excited. we are just completing today, chris, our 99-county tour in iowa. we started the morning after the sioux city debate and a light switch got turned on. we had just -- audiences that were completely different than before. huge audiences, and also they were robust.
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i think it's because they saw me when i took on ron paul on the issue of the dealing with a nuclear iran. that really hit a nerve. [ male announcer ] how can power consumption in china, impact wool exports from new zealand, textile production in spain, and the use of medical technology in the u.s.? at t. rowe price, we understand the connections of a complex, global economy. it's just one reason over 75% of our mutual funds beat their 10-year lipper average. t. rowe price. invest with confidence. request a prospectus or summary prospectus with investment information, risks, fees and expenses to read and consider carefully before investing. ♪ [ gong ] strawberry banana! [ male announcer ] for a smoothie with real fruit plus veggie nutrition new v8 v-fusion smoothie. could've had a v8. [ man ] we've been in the business over the course of four centuries. [ woman ] it was a family business back then,
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good you back -- newt gingrich said the other day he could never back somebody like paul, paul for the presidency. is that your position as well? could you back paul for president if it came down to that? >> well, i intend to be the nominee of the republican party. >> if you were the nominee, where would you be? ominee. >> welcome back to "hardball." that's myself trying to get some information from congresswoman bachmann. i was asking her about whether if ron paul were the nominee, could she back him in theç general election, and she gave me an answer, which is she's going to be the nominee, which is a good answer. we're at java joe's. the story out of iowa could be the strong showing of ron paul.
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his supporters are passionate and well organized, a winning combination on caucus night. but with us -- but with his front-runner status has come new scrutiny of his background. he's been criticized for newsletters he published under his name in the late '80s and early '90s. paul said he didn't write them, but they were published under the name of ron paul and he did make some money from them. another aspect of paul's backstory is troubling to many republicans. in the past, he supported fringe groups like the big one, the john birch society. remember them? people my age remember that they believed that eisenhower and his brother, milton, were communists, and he was given background himself to deep conspiracy theories. he's got all kinds of conspiracies. he may even be a truther. erin mcclank is covering the race for real clear politics and matt stran is the party chairman
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out here. tell me about the people who would like ron paul even when they hear this stuff about him. >> let's go back to right before the straw poll. the ad he used to introduce himself to iowa voters was the jet fuel that propelled him at the straw poll to start bringing new people. his latest ad when he talks about cutting $1 trillion worth of spending in year one, he talks about cutting five different departments. he shows dmi s depictions of th departments blowing up >> so he's theç genuine articl? >> at a point where he's talking about cutting spending, where you have most of the candidates saying cutting debt is the biggest issue. so far it's proven the case. look at one and two in the polls, mitt romney's polls are talking about the debt and the deficit as well. those spending arguments are what's driving the debate right now and ron paul and mitt romney are examples a and b as to how that's being effective. >> erin, you're younger than i am, and probably younger than him, and what i've been hearing a lot is there's a lot of ron
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paul enthusiasm for people in their 20s. >> in college kids, for sure. i've talked to a lot of democrats, actually, who have changed the registration to republican in order to caucasus for r with ron paul. they thought barack obama was this new figure, but they're seeing something different about ron paul. >> everyone's ad -- is this like, i don't want to have to wear a motorcycle helmet? i don't want to have to have an individual mandate for health insurance? is it that whole freedom? personal freedom thing? >> that's what he talks about everywhere he goes, our personal liberties. and how the government is taking that he away from us. >> that really reminds me of the old days, barry goldwater. we felt that appeal in our 20s and late teens. this idea that i dealy, we don't need government. when you reach 65 or 70 and have health problems and realize you have parents that are getting old, you realize that government's pretty healthy, sometimes, pretty healthy to have it around. >> somebody here in iowa that
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personifies new establishment. he's had crowds of thousands at iowa state university, at the university of iowa. there's a tremendous movement. that challenge is turning those new people out on caucus night. >> and it's turning in a lot ofç criticism. when you get to the front, people start looking at it. here a "new york times" blog today, james kircheck accuses him of supporting anti-government conspiracy theories. he writes, "it's impossible to know what ron paul truly this is about black or gay people or the other groups so vicious lly disparaged in his new letters. what do we know? we know with absolute certainty, however, that ron paul is a paranoid conspiracy theory who regularly imputes the worst possible motives to the very government he wants to lead." my question to you, mr. chairman, does that offend people? for example, if they were to think that ron paul has flirted with the idea of a truther. that maybe the government with its effort to get us into a war with the islamic states had something to do or knew something about 9/11 ahead of
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time. does that strike people as whacky or credible? >> i think that's some of the stuff we're going to find out over the last -- >> what do you think it is? do you think it's whacky to think that george bush was pushing some sort of detonator that blew up the world trade center? that those weren't airplanes flown by terrorists? >> obviously i don't believe that. but ultimately the final decision will be made by iowans who have a chance to ask him that question directly. >> if he does think i think there's something to that, would he be dead? >> he would have tremendous difficulty. of course he would. >> erin, would young people say, well, maybe there is something to these theories. >> i don't think they're paying close attention to that. but there are five days left until the caucuses. when herman cain was being targeted for allegations of sexual harassment, it took him a month for him to fall down in the polls and get out of the race. we only have five days left. >> so you think bad news about a candidate in the short-term can't bring him down? >> we're talking about rick perry changing his position on abortion and talking about whether romney can now win iowa. all these otherç things that a happening, these dynamics in the last few days, i don't think it's going to happen. >> let's go to evidence that ron
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paul has never endorsed the 9/11 truther moment implicitly, but when offered the chance to repudiate those theories, like the one that the white house had something to do with blowing up the world trade centers, let's see what he says. let's watch when he's confronted with a question about 9/11. >> why don't you come out about the truth about 9/11? >> because i can't handle the controversy. i have the imf, the federal reserve to deal, and the irs to deal with. because, no, i just have more -- too many things on my plate. >> ron paul is also a repeat guest on the radio show of alex jones, who has suggested the united states government was involved in the 9/11 attacks. earlier this month, ron paul discussed with jones the recent plot, allegedly by iranian operatives to assassinate the saudi ambassador in washington. paul called the whole story that they were out to get the saudi ambassador a propaganda stunt. let's listen to the two of them, alex jones and ron paul.
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>> there was this so-called attempt to kill the saudi or the iranian ambassador, you know. that kind of stuff is just way too much -- >> even mainstream media had to admit that was totally phony and a pretext to attack iran. >> yeah, that was the real excuse, to blame it on them. it's just another propaganda stunt, as far as i'm concerned. >> so the government of the united states is -- i mean, i understand there's neocons out there that would like us to go after iran and a lot of other people too as well, that don't care about iran, and care about our security. but to suggest that the united statesç would put together a phony plot to go after the saudi ambassador, so we could do it, to build the case against iran, is that credible talk? >> it doesn't seem like it. but you know, a lot of people are talking about ron paul's views on national security and foreign policy, generally, and that's out of line with the mainstream of the republican party. but i'm not so sure that some of his views. now, that's a little bit different. but generally speaking, that we shouldn't have iran sanctions
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and we shouldn't go after iran. you know, i think you're finding that the republican electorate is shifting a little bit. >> i do. i want to ask you about it. key question. have some republicans, maybe not a majority of them, in this state of iowa, got war fatigue? iraq, iran -- i mean, iraq and afghanistan. one more is ten years, the other is 8 1/2 years, just ending. if you come out as a peace nick, in other words, enough of these wars in the islamic part of the world, can you get votes? >> there's always a strain of that prairie pacifism that still runs through the heartland. you sense some of that with war fatigue. i've had people anecdotally who have approached me and said they'll caucus for dr. paul -- >> too many words. four years ago, if paul were to say something like that, which he did, rudy giuliani would blow the whistle on him and everybody would applaud, right? that's changed. >> the corollary to that is the discussion relative to iran has driven some evangelical christian voters in other directions away from congressman paul as well. i think the foreign policy argument cuts both ways. >> we've got to talk about that, the biblical notion of going to
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war with iran scares me. anyway, thank you, erin. not you, erin, and thank you, matt strawn. up next, we'll see what voters here at java joes are thinking days before the caucus. i'll talk to the folks here. you're watching "hardball" from des moines, iowa. when bp made a commitment to the gulf,
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we knew it would take time, but we were determined to see it through. today, while our work continues, i want to update you on the progress: bp has set aside 20 billion dollars to fund economic and environmental recovery. we're paying for all spill- related clean-up costs. and we've established a 500 million dollar fund so independent scientists can study the gulf's wildlife and environment for ten years. thousands of environmental samples from across the gulf have been analyzed by independent labs under the direction of the us coast guard. i'm glad to report all beaches and waters are open for everyone to enjoy. and the economy is showing progress with many areas on the gulf coast having their best tourism seasons in years. i was born here, i'm still here and so is bp. we're committed to the gulf for everyone who loves it, and everyone who calls it home.
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what is it about taking a first step that we find so compelling?
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is it because taking a step represents hope? or triumph? at genworth, we believe in taking small steps every day to keep your promises, protect what matters, and prepare for a secure financial future. no matter where you want to go, one step at a time is the only way to get there. go to robert reich, the former cabinet member of the clinton administration said in a column today that he thinks then president, president obama, is going to change his running mates this time around. he's going to have hillary clinton on the ticket. i want to ask the people here where with biden or hillary clinton as a running mate. you, sir? >> clinton. >> biden. >> i'd have to go with biden. >> either.
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both. >> who do you prefer? this is "hardball". >> clinton. >> i'd go with biden. >> clinton. >> clinton. >> hillary! >> joe biden to secretary of state, and jennifer granholm, former governor of michigan as his running mate. >> boy, you're original. >> who do you think, biden or hillary. >> i'm sorry, i didn't hear? >> biden or clinton for vice president this time running as president. >> i like them both. >> you're tough. >> aarp is a nonpartisan -- >> okay! you got your name in there! aarp, i have never heard of the organization in my life! >> you could be one of our -- >> no, but i'm eligible. >> sir, biden or hillary clinton? >> neither one. >> either one? >> neither one. >> clinton. >> hillary clinton. >> i think we're moving towards clinton. definitely clinton. >> clinton or biden? >> definitely hillary. >> stay with joe. >> stay with joe. are we having a correlation of
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male/female here. everybody here who's÷skñ"jbk4j hillary clinton, raise your hand. all the women raise your hand and keep it up. the men who said hillary clinton -- >> see, way back there are there hillary clinton supporters. how about biden, both genders. hillary clinton, two or three to one. &q!%11ie1ñ do you think it's gog to happen? yell yes if you think so? yell no. here we are, another irrelevant debate. anyway, here we are at java joes. we'll be right back. but we speculate here. morhardball, coming up. [ male announcer ] is zero worth nothing? ♪ imagine zero pollutants in our environment. or zero dependency on foreign oil. ♪ this is why we at nissan built a car inspired by zero. because zero is worth everything. the zero gas, 100% electric nissan leaf.
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i'm julia boorstin with your cnbc market wrap. a good day all around on wall street. the dow up 135 points. the s&p up 13. and the nasdaq closed up 23
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points. leading the pack, jpmorgan and bank of america both rebounding after yesterday's sell-off. also showing signs of life, the euro, which made up some losses against the dollar. still, continued volatility in the eurozone held it near a 15-month low. on the jobs front, mixed news. weekly jobless claims rose last week, but the four-week average still fell to the lowest level in more than three years. those for-sale signs you've seen on lawns everywhere this year, get ready to watch some come down. pending home sales hit a 19-month high. and still low, but not bottom basement mortgage rates for fixed 30-year loans climbed from a record low to 3.95%. finally, the government of belgium wants to know if two popular beer makers are engaged in price fixing. both anheuser-busch and heineken announced a price hike ahead. that's it from cnbc, first in business worldwide. now back to "hardball."
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welcome back to "hardball." with romney showing -- look at this crowd! wow. well, with romney showing a lot of strength out here, he may win next tuesday night here in çio. who will emerge as his chief conservative alternative? can santorum's momentum carry him through tuesday night and all the way to south carolina? is he the new newt gingrich? chuck todd is nbc's chief white house correspondent and our political director, of course. jeff zeleny covers politics for "the new york times." chuck, you were with newt gingrich today. does he have a sense of fading? or how would you be reporting on him today? >> reporter: well, i was actually with newt yesterday. today, i was with ron paul. but let me start with gingrich, because you're right, i interviewed him yesterday. he clearly knows that he's got a problem here. and he's trying to play up this aspect, oh, you know, it's going to be a real muddied field, and
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then i'll beak through in south carolina. there's no doubt that south carolina is sort of the final stand for any potential conservative candidate. but there was a little bit of a pattern i detected at the gingrich rallies i went to yesterday. and that is a lot of people i pulled aside to have the chats, and we all do it now, and a million of us are here to have those conversations. you know, about a third of every audience is political tourists, which i love. i love that people come out here, visiting relatives, and they want to see this stuff too the way we do. but the iowans i talked to at these newt rallies, chris, they're saying, coming away from them going, well, i'm undecided, this or that. i had a couple newt folks even volunteer that the virginia ballot stuff bothered them a little bit. you could sort of sense what you're seeing in some of this polling, just by the conversations you're having with the actual activists, the iowans that are there. and as jeff knows, these audiences are about half iowans, half tourists. >> let me go to jeff on this whole question of romney. romney's got chris christie
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coming out here tomorrow. and christie's very popular from the part of the countryç i'm familiar, northeast suburbanite, deferent kind of reagan democrats if you will. they go back and forth. does the he look like the nominee's running mate already? >> i don't know. it's hard to tell. chris christie is popular here. a lot of republicans were really hoping he was going to run. this summer, this group of prominent iowans flew to new jersey, part of this recruitment committee. it didn't work, but i think that he is sort of the star of the party. so i think a lot of people would like to see that. but interestingly, chris christie and mitt romney are not going to be together, not surprisingly, they're splitting up so they can cover more ground. but i don't hear many of the romney supporters thinking that far ahead, you know, to who the vice presidential candidate is going to be. they're still sort of focused on this right now. and i was in mason city today, seeing mitt romney. had a fairly good crowd. ran into a lot of those undecided voters saying, yeah win narrowed it down to probably two or three.
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but even in his crowds, even in romney's own crowds, you don't find a lot of people who are as gung ho for a mike huckabee as they were four years ago. or on the other side, a barack obama. >> are they picking a president or are they picking a person who appeals to their gut or their heart? are they into the president-picking business yet, or is this about feeling good about the candidate? >> i think we're almost to the full stage of picking a president. not everyone is going to do that, of course. some people, you know, are -- want to give rick santorum some love for coming here so much. some people want to send a message with ron paul. but most of the romney people are getting close to the stage of picking a president. they're fed up with president obama. i talked to two obama voters in this mitt romney audience today and said they're doneç with hi they're shopping around for a republican. so, that's sort of the cross-current going -- undercurrent that iowa's a general election state as well. >> chuck, how were your -- what's your sense of smell out here? do you sense that they're
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beginning to pick a president rather than going with their t gut? >> reporter: you know, i go with jeff. i talked to one woman today at a paul rally who was a die-hard michele bachmann supporter and said, but you know what, i don't think she has a chance. i haven't seen romney yet, but i'm kind of leaning romney, but i want to go see him. and she had plans to go. she knew his schedule, she was going to go see him later tonight. so, you know, she was in that"it got to pick a president" mode. but when you go to a paul rally, his folks, this is about changing the course of the republican party, sending a message inside the the republican party. this is a devotion, an intensity of support to paul, and even to santorum. and that's sort of the -- i think that's the unknown factor here. you know, the shocking thing about mitt romney is he's been at the top of the iowa polls now, i'd argue, internally, for a couple of weeks. we've known maybe seven to ten days. and yet when you look at what the other campaigns are doing, they're not attacking him. here's the guy who's the
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front-runner who's sort of sailing over this campaign right now, while all of the other folks trying to position themselves as the anti-romney ignore him for a while and beat the living daylights out of each other. i think they're going to look back on this moment and regret it, because mitt romney could steal iowa without really working very hard for it. >> yeah. that's what we call the eastern division. if he winsç the moderate wing the party, such as it is, what's all this talk about him spending his time in eastern iowa? is that more moderate or what? >> a lot of the population base is in eastern iowa. but he's sort of moving -- >> where are we now? >> we're in central iowa. the smack dab of the middle of the state. >> excuse me! as the old person, i don't know where i went to. i flew! >> he's moving west across the state, but interestingly, his new schedule of where she's going to be spending new year's, the heart of conservative iowa. he actually won that area four years ago. so mitt romney, pretense is out
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the window. he's trying to win here. >> let's talk about rick santorum, who could come out here with the big ticket. if romney wins the thing, he ekes out a victory over ron paul or the other way around. they're both in the same position. romney will probably be the winner in that case, either way. if santorum, who's always been seen of a guy as too far out. even in pennsylvania, he lost by 18 points when he ran for re-election. to pro-choice or too pro-life, if you will, to anti-gay in the way he presents himself. he seems to be anti-gay, period. too much of that. is he -- is he going to be the guy who becomes the alternative to romney down the road based on his performance out here? >> i think if he beat s rick perry, that's certainly a potential. santorum has spent a fair amount of time in south carolina. when he's not been here in iowa, he's been in south carolina, thinking ahead to that possibility. so i think that he is hoping that he finishes above rick perry. for him, that is a huge win. >> and also above bachmann? >> no question. and the surest sign that san
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toe santorum is rising today, someone finally attacked him in anç ad. >> suppose -- i want my "today" show predictions to come true. it's always a mistake to make a prediction, chuck, as you know, because then you want it to happen. i was thinking it was going to be paul, romney, santorum monday morning when i got on with savannah there, your colleague. i was just thinking, is that possible, or is it beginning to look like romney, paul, santorum? >> reporter: well, look. romney got 25% last time. think about that. if he just get that is 25% this time, that's a winning number. that was a losing number four years ago. you do sense that the attacks on ron paul are an attempt by the rest of the field, but even romney got into it, to not lower his number, but to simply stop his growth. and they assume he sits in that 20 to 24% number. so i think your one, two prediction is very good, but
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romney's intensity of support is softer than i think a couple of these other candidates. we'll have some more polling coming out over the next couple of days, but you do sense that. and i wouldn't be surprised, of the four candidates, three through six, that are fighting for the conservative slot, newt, perry, santorum, and bachmann, i wouldn't be surprised if two end up in single digits and two sor$ of surge with one, surging a little farther. in that whether it's santorum or perry or maybe newt, if one of those three ends up in really close third or second. >> i think it's going to be santorum, because of the absolute knowledge on the part of the voter. if you vote for rick santorum, you know exactly what you're getting. he's barely even a politician, in the sense that we know a politician. he doesn'tç trim. he says what he believes. you can like it or not, but when he says it, you know it is true, for him. it may not be true for the universe of man, but it's true for rick santorum. anyway, thank you, jeff zeleny. chuck todd, thank you as well. great to see you out here.
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up next, the candidate with one of the biggest campaign operations here in iowa is president obama. there is a democrat caucus coming up tuesday night and his campaign is treating today those caucuses look like a dry run for november. we're going to go inside the obama campaign, the ground campaign. this is "hardball" from des moines, only on msnbc. [ coughing ] [ male announcer ] got a cold? [ sniffling ] [ male announcer ] not sure what to take? now robitussin® makes finding the right relief simpler than ever. click on the robitussin® relief finder. click on your symptoms. get your right relief. ♪ makes the cold aisle easy.
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they said this day would never come. they said our sights were set too high. they said this country was too divided, too disillusioned to
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ever come together around a common purpose. but on this january night, at this defining moment in history, you have done what the cynics said we couldn't do. >> welcome back to "hardball." well, barack obama's victory right here in iowa back in 2008 proved the critical moment for his campaign, i believe, and in 2012, even though he's unopposed here, the obama re-election team is charging hard here in iowa. they've opened up eight campaign offices around this state. and on tuesday night, the president plans to address democratic iowa caucusgoers via video link. why is the obama campaign putting so much emphasis on the ohio ground game and can they ç reignite the grassroots support that powered them to victory in '08? charles metessian is politico's national editor and perry is
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with the grio. perry, what's the emphasis being put in -- explain it, and why is obama making such an effort here in iowa when he has he has no opponent? >> this is a big state for the election, of course, a swing state. bush won in '04, obama won in '08. he's had a year to be attacked over and over again by nine different people. so to hold iowa, he needs to get out and get out there early. remember, rahm emanuel was here a few weeks ago, giving obama's argument for him. >> let me ask you about this fight here. i was impressed by how close the polls is right now. it's really within a point. we always have to one the close ones, right? >> of course. >> the president has to win out here. >> it's a tight state. people forget this is historically a really tough state, a-49 in 2004, 49-48 in 0
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on 00. it's not a gimme state. because there's a strong labor component, to a certain degree because of tom harkin and folks like that, but it's a tough state. >> what about this desire to get the troops out there. is this an attempt to try to reignite the excitement? >> i don't think real obama gung ho people -- maybe peopleç can remember what a great candidate he was. when you see him there, giving that kind of speech, you remind yourself, i remind myself how sterling a candidate he was. as president he's had problems. they're clear to everybody. he's had successes, but as a candidates he seemed to have no problems, sterling addresses, exciting every group he went in front of, can he do it again and beginning to energize his campaign on the ground? >> he can't win this way again.
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no matter how much he does this in iowa, it's not an election about great speeches and energy as much as -- he's been saying this himself. he's president now, people are flustered about certain things. it will be much more negative last last time. he'll make it more about the contrast of the republicans rather than the hope of last time. [ male announcer ] you are a business pro. lord of the carry-on.
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i mentioned this earlier, with our crowd out here, the possibility that the president would select hillary clinton to be his running mate for the year 2012, rather than joe biden, perhaps naming him to be secretary of state in the second term. perry bacon, that's always a exciting discussion point. is it real? >> i don't think it's real, and i'm not sure it would matter. people don't vote based on the vice president unless it's someone likeç sarah palin who maybe they feel like is not capable of taking the job. we've forgotten the controversies of the 1990s. if she got back in the race she would be more of a traditional figure and have the controversy around her again. >> i wonder about that. what do you think? it's a wide-open question and of course up to the president. >> i'm with perry on this. why would the get rid of joe biden, when the president has a problem with white working-class
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blue-collar voters. >> did you see the poll we took in here. overwhat you willingly for hillary clinton. >> biden has a proven record, but why would she want to be obama's number two? >> because it would establish her into succession, the succession for the next election, where she could clearly run for president. >> if she wants to at over 70 years old in 2016. >> if hillary wants to be the nominee, she will be anyway. if she ran against biden, she would be the heavy favorite, no matter if she's vice president or not. >> except it allows the democratic party to present itself as a part of the future. ]/knr think we're forgetting tw very important names. >> andrew cuomo, o'malley, they're not weak contenders. andrew cuomo against hillary clinton? are you serious? >> i'm not matching them up.
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i'm saying -- >> are you serious? >> two very am beneficiary people. >> then the rest of the çcount, how does andrew contend. >> i don't know, andrew has sharp elbows. >> i know, but they don't win elections. >> perry bacon, last thought, would you be worry, if here aligning behind reply romney, and growing up politically out here in iowa, wouldn't that concern you? it's not going to be the clown car running against you next november, it's going to be probably now mitt romfully? >> yes, the obama people for months have been signaling romney is the best candidate. they're trying to get republicans not to vote for him, and reminding him about his flip flopping. so a newt gingrich or rick perry would be much easier. i agree with check todd who said earlier, it looks like romney will probably win this caucus
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now. >> i think rick perry would be an easy candidate for soupie sales to run against. what are we talking about, rick perry for president? after this performance? he's had a few weeks to prove he's absolutely ridiculous. he think there's eight members to the supreme court. over and over and over he gets things wrong. isn't that relevant? he can't pass a citizenship test? >> i think people don't vote on citizenship tests, though. >> okay. what you're learning out here is romney is probably the front-runner, but ron paul could possibly knock him off, right? >> i think a lot is contingent on the turnout. it's really on the poll side right now. what do you think out here, perry? >>ç romney 1, paul 2, santorum. >> that's what i said on monday. we're on the same page. >> thank you both. that's "hardball" for now. thanks for being with us,


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